Recently our President Pratibha Patel visited German concentration camps where six million Jews had been exterminated. Her visit reminds my days in Germany during my service as Commander of NATO Forces (Holland Sector). During that time I saw a concrete reminder of one of the worst human disasters in modern times. I visited a concentration camp, and I became sick to my stomach.
What Hitler did to the humanity is unspeakable. How did it happen? Where were the civilized people? There are no answers. What I saw there is beyond my ability to tell anyone, and I am sorry that readers have to know about things like this. The event about which I am going to speak is known as the Holocaust. In the Greek language holo means ‘whole’ and caustos means ‘burned’. Originally, it referred to a religious rite in which an offering was entirely consumed by fire. In our modern day society, holocaust relates to any mass human disaster; but when written Holocaust, with the capital ‘H’, it refers to the death of over six million Jews in Nazi Germany's death camps.
In the early 19th century, the Jews of Europe and of Germany in particular, began to be harassed by anti-Semitic race groups in Germany. The word anti-Semitism refers to the racism directed against Jewish people. Many Jewish people were prosperous. Germany had problems, and when people have problems, they often look for someone to blame; so when Hitler came to power in 1933, he began to blame the Jews. Jews were oppressed in many ways, and Hitler developed such a hatred of them that he decided to wipe them out. Even if someone were only part Jewish or married to a Jew, they were characterized as racially impure and a threat to the rest of the German people.
Hitler began by passing laws that discriminated against Jewish people. Jews lost their businesses and couldn't get hired by other people. There were more and more things that became closed to them. When one young Jew assassinated a German diplomat in Paris, there were riots, and synagogues all across Germany were set on fire. Windows of were smashed, and people were beaten up — and all this with the blessing of the government. In fact, it was the Jew who was put in jail. German people could do anything they wanted to Jews and they would not be punished for it.
Jewish people became very afraid, and many fled to other countries for refuge. When the Second World War began, Hitler's army took over many neighbouring nations. In Poland, Jews were forced to move into ghettos surrounded by walls and barbed wire. The houses where they once lived were just taken away from them, and if they had money in the bank, that was taken too. In every country that Hitler took over — and this includes The Netherlands, France, Belgium, Austria and others — it was the same. Then he developed what was called ‘the final solution’. He created huge camps where Jews were taken and killed. He rounded these people up just like they were animals and stuffed them into trains to take them to the camps. The conditions on these trains were so bad that many sick or elderly Jews died before they even got to the death camps. It was a horrible, human tragedy.
I cannot even explain to my readers how I felt when I visited some of these camps. There were many of them, located in Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, Majdanek (Lublin), and Auschwitz (Os'wiecim), Kulmhof, Northwest of the Lodz ghetto. Some of them had carbon monoxide gas chambers that could kill hundreds of people in just a few minutes. In Auschwitz alone, the Jewish dead totalled more than a million, and, in all, six million died. Can anyone believe this?
Auschwitz. That was the worst camp. It was located near Krakow in Germany and was the largest of the camps. Unlike the others, it used quick-working hydrogen cyanide for the gassings. The victims of Auschwitz came from all over Europe. They were brought from Norway, France, Hungary, the Lowland Countries, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Yugoslavia, and Greece. Some were subjected to brutal medical experiments, and lots were sterilized, making them incapable of having children. Many died of starvation or disease, because the camps were filthy. Families were split up, people's heads were shaved, and numbers were tattooed on their arms. Then, most were killed in the gas chambers. To get rid of the many bodies, Hitler constructed large crematoriums, where the bodies could be burned to ashes.
Dr Athiqul H Laskar